Steelers Urged to Target Former First-Round QB

Mike Tomlin

Getty Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats encouraged Mike Tomlin and the Steelers to sign quarterback Sam Darnold in free agency.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have voiced a desire early this offseason to bring in quarterback competition for 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Former Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats argued on his podcast that the team should considered Sam Darnold, a 2018 first-round pick, as that potential competition.

“You saw Sam Darnold come in and play well this year,” Moats said on The Arthur Moats Experience with Deke Podcast on January 25. “We know that he’s a high pedigree guy who’s been around and has starter experience. But more importantly, he’s very talented.”

Obviously, things haven’t worked out Darnold and his talent in his NFL career. He hasn’t started more than six games in a season since 2021.

But Moats pointed to that talent as what the Steelers need to push Pickett.

“[It’s] less about how productive he can be when you’re just talking about talent in a practice setting,” Moats added. “Do you know how hard it is to beat out a professional on that level? Every day in practice because of how talented he is?”

Could the Pittsburgh Steelers Pursue QB Sam Darnold?

Steelers President Art Rooney II said in his annual press briefing the team would prefer to re-sign quarterback Mason Rudolph. That’s in line with what head coach Mike Tomlin told the media in his post-season press conference on January 18.

Moats wasn’t against bringing back Rudolph. But in the event the veteran quarterback opts for a different opportunity, the former linebacker proposed Darnold as an alternative.

From a practice perspective, Moats argued that in Darnold the Steelers would be getting what they have with Mitch Trubisky.

“That’s the thing with Mitch [Trubisky] when we said Mitch was the guy [to work with Pickett] early on,” Moats said. “Mitch knows how to practice, and Mitch is a professional, and Mitch is ultra-talented.

“So that’s a big reason why [to sign Darnold].

Trubisky is under contract with the Steelers for 2024, but the expectation is the Steelers will cut him to save about $2.9 million against the salary cap.

How Darnold Could Fit With the Steelers

Because of their belief in Pickett, the Steelers are in a delicate quarterback situation this offseason. Although they want to get better behind center, the Steelers can’t add a signal caller that’s significantly better than Pickett unless they want the 2022 first-rounder to sit on the bench.

That makes Darnold an interesting option. While he’s best suited as competition in practice and an insurance policy in case of injury, Darnold also has starter experience.

For that reason, Moats argued he could be true competition for Pickett. And if Darnold earns the starting job, then it will truly be the end of the Pickett era in Pittsburgh.

“We’ll all agree that if [Pickett] can’t beat Sam Darnold, then yeah, we need to go ahead and draft somebody the following year,” Moats said. “Because we don’t deem Sam Darnold as our franchise guy. But is he good enough to start? Sure.

“If Kenny can’t beat out Sam Darnold, we’re in a bad situation anyway.”

Darnold has posted a 21-35 record in 56 NFL starts. Over his six-year NFL career, he’s posted a 59.7% completion percentage and averaged 6.7 yards per pass with 63 touchdowns and 56 interceptions.

He went 0-1 as a starter for the San Francisco 49ers this past season. He appeared in 10 games, completing 60.9% of his passes for an average of 6.5 yards per pass with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.

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